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Meal Prep: Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Verily Magazine Meal Prep

Art Credit: Evgenia Kohan

When our hectic schedules get the better of us, it's easy to turn to the healthy-er menu at the local fast food chain. But we don't have to sacrifice nutrition for convenience, or vice versa. With just one day of prepping you can have healthy home cooked meals all week long.

Meal prepping has tons of benefits for on-the-go eaters, families, and anyone looking to be in control of their diet. It empowers you to get on and stay on a healthy eating track. Spending 1-3 hours to prep meals on 1 or 2 days at the beginning of the week is a money, time, and stress saver for the busy week ahead! Preparing your meals ahead means more room for exercise, errands, relaxing with loved ones, or treating yourself to a favorite hobby or a good book.

Everyone has different approaches to meal prepping. But here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Choose foods that will keep up to 4-5 days in the refrigerator. Some foods last longer than others. Check for info on how to store certain foods safely.

  2. Buy enough ingredients that you plan to split between the meals you'll need per day.

  3. Slightly undercook food so that reheating won't overcook them.

  4. Use air tight Tupperware to maintain freshness.

  5. To keep food from going to waste, make extra portions to eat for lunch over the week. Leftover sauces and casseroles keep well when frozen for days when you're too busy to meal prep.

A 5-day Meal Prep Dinner Inspiration

What to prep:

  • 1/2 - 1 lb lean ground beef, cooked with onions and garlic

  • 3 chicken breasts, grilled or baked

  • 1/2 head of lettuce, chopped

  • 2 tomatoes, chopped

  • 2 cups peas, cooked

  • 1 avocado, sliced

  • 1 carrot, chopped

  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked

How to use it:

  • Marinara Monday - Mix ground beef with a jar of marinara sauce and heat. Add peas. Pour onto cooked whole wheat noodles and sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired.

  • Taco Tuesday - Scoop ground beef or shredded chicken into corn tortillas and top with brown rice, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, sour cream (or Greek yogurt), cheese and a squeeze of fresh lemon/lime juice.

  • It's a Wrap Wednesday - Place 1 sliced chicken breast into a flour tortilla. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and cheese. Add spreads like hummus, mayo, mustard or pesto. Wrap tightly and slice into rounds.

  • Thanksgiving Thursday - Mix 1 cubed chicken breast with 1 can of Campbell's 98% Fat Free Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup, peas and carrots. Top with a batter made of 1/2 milk, 1 egg and 1 cup of biscuit baking mix. Bake for 30 minutes in a 400 °F oven or until the crust is golden brown.

  • Fried Rice Friday - Heat olive oil and stir fry any leftover brown rice for 1-2 minutes. Create a well in the center and add 1 egg. When the egg is almost cooked, stir into the rice and add leftover chopped chicken, peas and carrots. Season with low sodium soy sauce and pepper to taste.

Meal prepping leaves you with great food and no excuses—no excuse to choose the drive-thru rather than your own fridge and no excuse to say "I'm too tired" or "I'm too lazy" to cook. Our hectic lifestyle doesn't have to mean it's an unhealthy one, but—as with most things worthwhile—it does require a little prep.